Caltrans Unveils Certification Site in California for Inertial Profilers

Caltrans has announced the opening of California's first certification and calibration site for inertial profiler devices and technicians, part of the department's move to update its pavement smoothness specifications to accommodate new measurement technology.

The department will hold a webinar to provide details of the site, the new pavement smoothness specification and answer questions on June 13 from 9 a.m. to noon. Links to a flier and the registration page for the webinar are the bottom of this story.

In February, Caltrans published and posted on its website a Standard Special Provision (SSP) designated as SSP 39-1.12 for Hot Mix Asphalt that requires all pavement projects use the Inertial Profiler for measuring pavement smoothness in lieu of the California Profilograph. The vehicle-mounted Inertial Profiler measures pavement smoothness while driving at highway speeds. The California Profilograph it replaces is a non-motorized piece of equipment that moved at walking speed and exposed workers to traffic and construction hazards. A similar SSP for concrete pavements was published as SSP 40-1.

National surveys have consistently shown that pavement smoothness is one of the most important quality attributes in the mind of motorists, and recent studies have shown that smoother pavements are safer and can reduce vehicle fuel consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Caltrans and industry representatives have had many meetings over the years to evaluate and update the department's pavement smoothness specifications to place a greater emphasis on smoothness and also to accommodate new technology.

To measure pavement smoothness correctly, the new Inertial Profilers must be calibrated to a reference section of pavement. Caltrans also wants to certify that the equipment operators are properly trained and qualified to use the equipment. Previously, the closest site for this purpose was at the Texas Transportation Institute. After years of planning and preparation, Caltrans announced that it was opening a California site in Northern California along the median area of Interstate 80 in Sacramento that currently serves as a park-and-ride lot for the adjacent Watt Avenue light rail station.

Caltrans says it officially plans to open the certification site in July.The informational "webinar" is intended to provide additional details about the specification, the certification site, testing schedule, certification testing requirements, costs, and guidelines by the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The webinar should be of particular interest to equipment manufacturers, consultants, contractors and testing firms.

"This new specification, and certification site, represents a quantum leap forward in the department's commitment to pavement smoothness," said Peter Vacura, head of asphalt pavements for the Caltrans Pavement Program. "These new devices will help transportation agencies and contractors build smoother- and safer-riding pavements for motorists, a safer working environment for highway workers, and help improve gas mileage and cut down on GHG emissions."

A longtime industry participant in pavement smoothness discussions with Caltrans expressed a similar sentiment.

"We look forward to working with Caltrans to develop pavement-smoothness specification language that is realistic and achievable by the contracting community," said veteran paver Skip Brown with Asphalt Consulting Services. "The advent of inertial profiling systems will accomplish this with increased efficiency, saving taxpayer dollars along with reducing highway interruptions caused by traffic controls necessary with current systems. In addition, pre-existing conditions are easily addressed, resolving conflicts experienced today over the causes of uneven pavement."

To view a copy of the Caltrans webinar flier, click HERE. To register for the Caltrans webinar, click HERE. For general pavement smoothness information click HERE to go to the Caltrans web page devoted to the topic.